Image for What went right this week: minke whales returned to Wales, plus more

What went right this week: minke whales returned to Wales, plus more

Minke whales made a comeback, the Swiss said 'yes' to a new climate law, and researchers made a link between napping and brain power, plus more good news

Minke whales made a comeback, the Swiss said 'yes' to a new climate law, and researchers made a link between napping and brain power, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

good news
A cross-channel ferry made battery-powered history

Ferry giant P&O chugged into the maritime history books this week with a battery-powered channel crossing, hailing a milestone in greener ocean travel.

P&O’s aptly-named Pioneer is the world’s largest hybrid, double-ended ferry, and is expected to slash emissions by 40 per cent.

She ticked off her maiden Dover to Calais crossing on Monday, with batteries equivalent to 2.3m AA cells complementing on-board diesel generators. She will be joined by sister hybrid ship Liberté in November.

The two vessels cost £111m apiece and are designed with an eye to the future – as charging infrastructure improves, adding more batteries will make them carbon neutral. 

P&O’s chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite said: “For the millions of passengers who sail with P&O Ferries between the UK and France, our two ultra-modern vessels being introduced this year will deliver a fantastic travel experience.”

Image: Simon Boulanger

good news
A zero emissions shuttle service debuted at Glastonbury

All roads lead to Glastonbury this weekend, and some lucky revellers will be making the trip to the hallowed Pyramid Stage on zero emissions shuttle buses for the first time in the festival’s 53-year history. 

Coach operator National Express teamed up with EV fleet and battery specialist Zenobē to deliver the extravaganza’s battery-powered shuttle service. Buses will run three times a day from Bristol, direct to the festival gates 25 miles away in Somerset. 

Tom Berry, zero emissions vehicle specialist at National Express, said Glastonbury has always had “sustainability at its very core.”

Meanwhile Zenobē co-founder Steven Meersman hoped the partnership would set a new benchmark for festival transport. 

“It marks an important step in the decarbonisation of the festivals and events industry, where huge numbers of people flock to remote locations for just a few days but to date have not had sustainable ways of getting there,” he said.

Image: National Express/Zenobē

good news
A tower of backpacks brought refugees' stories to life

The personal testimonies of dozens of refugees and asylum seekers who have found safe harbour in the UK feature in an emotive art pop-up on London’s South Bank this week.

The installation, called Bags of Hope and commissioned by charity Migrant Help to mark Refugee Week, is a two-metre high tower of backpacks adorned with messages and images from people who have journeyed to the UK.

“People who seek asylum were forced to leave their homes through unimaginable trauma, their lives as they knew them often stolen in a matter of minutes,” said Migrant Help CEO Caroline O’Connor. “But, like all of us, they have hopes and dreams that live on.”

Macbis Maldonado fled political persecution in Honduras with her son and hopes to settle in the UK after claiming asylum. On her own bag of hope, she represented her dream of having a home to cook in with an image of a saucepan. 

“This raises awareness about asylum seekers’ lives, about what we face and how we feel,” Maldonado told Positive News. “I think this will help people show more empathy, compassion and kindness towards us.”

Image: Matt Alexander/PA Media

Sleep matters for the grey matter, researchers revealed

A short nap in the day keeps brain shrinkage at bay, a study has found, meaning those cheeky afternoon snoozes could actually help stave off neurodegenerative disease.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) partnered with colleagues from the University of the Republic in Uruguay to study data from almost 380,000 40-69-year-olds.

The numbers revealed a causal link between napping and larger brain volume – a sign of good brain health, which is linked to lower dementia risk.

The team also estimated the average difference in brain volume between habitual nappers and those who were less likely to take a snooze, finding it was equivalent to 2.6 to 6.5 years of ageing. 

Lead author Dr Victoria Garfield, from UCL’s unit for lifelong health and ageing, said: “Our findings suggest that, for some people, short daytime naps may be a part of the puzzle that could help preserve the health of the brain as we get older.”

Image: Keren Fedida

An AI pollution-preventing ‘crystal ball’ was launched

There’s good news coming out of the doom-laden world of artificial intelligence, thanks to the launch of a new pilot project that aims to predict water pollution before it happens.

Currently being trialled in the county of Devon in England, the aim is to prevent pollution at the beach resort of Combe Martin and make it safe for swimmers. 

Data from sensors in nearby fields and rivers will be merged with satellite images revealing local land use. Algorithms will then predict when waterways are most vulnerable to pollution events triggered by agricultural run-off – and farms can be advised accordingly to delay fertiliser spreading. 

The project is being piloted in the 55 sq mile North Devon Unesco Biosphere by computer systems company CGI, in partnership with Ordnance Survey (OS). 

“If successful, this has the potential to support remote monitoring of UK waterways for signs of pollution using data that is objective, regularly updated, and scalable,” said Donna Lyndsay, OS strategic market lead, environment and sustainability.

Image: Eugene Ivanoff/Shutterstock

Conservationists celebrated the return of minke whales

After a lengthy absence, minke whales have been spotted off parts of the Welsh coast, with conservationists hailing the sightings as evidence of healthy seas.

Researchers from the Sea Watch Foundation, a UK charity focused on whale, dolphin and porpoise preservation, made the first sighting 10 nautical miles off the coast of Cardigan Bay in west Wales. 

It’s the first time in over a decade that minke whales have been seen in the Cardigan Special Area of Conservation. 

“The sighting of minke whales in Cardigan Bay is a significant event, as it highlights the importance of this vital marine environment,” said a spokesperson from Sea Watch. 

“Minke whales are an indicator species, meaning that their presence indicates that the ecosystem is healthy.”

A second sighting came just a day later north of Cardigan near the Llŷn Peninsula. Sea Watch said the creatures were seen performing deep dives, which likely indicates foraging behaviour. 

Image: gvictoria/iStock

good news
Brits are pouring cold water on single-use plastics

Awkwardness over asking for a water bottle top-up is becoming a thing of the past as the UK embraces refillables, say campaigners.

Around 60 per cent of Brits now carry a reusable bottle, compared to just 20 per cent eight years ago, according to a poll by Refill, an app that maps venues offering refills. 

“It always used to be that slightly awkward moment of asking to have your water bottle refilled – but now it’s the norm,” said Steve Hynd, policy manager at City to Sea, a plastics pollution charity that runs the app.

“Brands like Chilly’s water bottles have made them a desirable item, they’ve made them cool,” he added. 

Despite the progress, there’s some way to go to break the UK’s 10m disposable bottle-a-day habit. 

“Jump on the Refill app,” Hynd told Positive News. “It makes it easier than ever for people to find out where they can refill their water bottle, completely eliminating the need for single-use plastic.”

Image: Bluewater

good news
Climate came out on top in Switzerland

Voters in Switzerland have backed a referendum on a new climate law amid ongoing concern over the retreat of Alpine glaciers.

The Swiss government’s Climate Protection Targets, Innovation and Strengthening Energy Security Act will incentivise the switch from oil and gas to green energy, and cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The law was given a thumbs up in the Swiss parliament last year, but was put to referendum after opposition from the right wing Swiss People’s Party. 

59 per cent of voters backed the measures, which pledge 2bn Swiss Francs (£1.7bn) to support the energy transition over the next decade. 

Meanwhile, Swiss glaciers saw record melting last year and have lost a third of their ice volume in the last two decades.

The Swiss population sends out a strong signal: the law for bringing the country to net zero emissions was accepted today!” tweeted glaciologist Matthias Huss. “Very happy that the arguments of climate science were heard!”

Image: Daniel Seßler

Main image: Stephanie Michaud/iStock

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What went right previously